Family law is a general term used in legal cases that involve any aspect of divorce, annulment, legal separation or paternity. Specific issues included in those categories are custody, parenting time, child support (including collection of past due child support), modification of prior Court Orders, division of the marital assets and debts, alimony (including collection of past due alimony) and attorney fees. In addition, the term family law includes prenuptial agreements and grandparent visitation rights. This is not an exhaustive list of all issues that are considered part of family law.
Is the Initial Conference with the attorney free?
The initial conference is not free in our office, as our attorneys use this time to assess and also to give legal advice. Our attorneys will charge you one hour at their hourly rate for the initial conference. Payment is expected on the day of the conference.
What are the attorney’s rates?
The Lustgarten & Roberts attorney’s hourly rates vary, depending on the experience of the attorney. Our rates vary between $180-$325/hour.
How much does it cost to get a divorce?
This is a very common question with a fairly unsatisfying answer. At the outset of the case, the attorney will give you a general range of the attorney fee expense involved, however, there are so many factors which affect the cost, and rarely are the factors all known from the beginning. In general, a less contentious divorce is less costly than a very messy long divorce. And, because a divorce includes at least two opposing parties, the cost isn’t entirely in any one party’s control.
What do my fees actually pay for?
A small portion of your fees will be used for actual costs, such as filing fees, postage, or copies. There may also be costs for outside experts in your case. However, the bulk of your legal fees rewards you with efficient, effective, and confidential counsel from an attorney who works for you and your interests alone. The less experienced attorneys in our office continuously draw from the more practiced, which gives every Lustgarten & Roberts client the benefits of our whole office. Two members of our support staff have been here over 20 years, therefore, you are also being aided by staff who are second to none.
Are there ways to reduce the cost of my divorce?
Our Firm works hard to be efficient with each client’s case, staying mindful that the client is billed for all work in the case. In general, you may keep your costs on the lower end of what your divorce would cost if you are attentive to the following:
If your attorney or the assistant requests something of you, do not wait to answer the request. Answer as quickly and as thoroughly as possible.
If you are collecting evidence for the attorney, try to refrain from emailing our office multiple times each day or week. Compile your thoughts into emails or phone calls which aren’t more frequent than is necessary. Each time your attorney reads or responds to emails, phone calls, and letters on your case, the attorney bills for time. Also, any paperwork you are requested to provide should come to our office well-organized and in a reasonable order. Sorting this out before you send it in is to your advantage.
With the advent of email, it has become very convenient and quick for clients to send numerous emails. While you should always communicate questions and respond to your attorney’s question in emails, you should be concise and efficient in the number of emails you send.
Heed your attorney’s advice. In doing so, your attorney will be able to ensure the case moves forward in an efficient manner. We can’t always predict what the opposing side will do or say. However, doing what your attorney suggests, is one way to smooth your path as much as possible from your side.
It is not uncommon for the opposing attorneys, along with client involvement and approval, to come to terms which settle the divorce, regarding property, children, etc…, thus eliminating the need to go to trial. This can also save both clients’ money.
Can I pay my bill online?
Your “balance due” with Lustgarten & Roberts is payable online if you have elected to have your bills sent to you via email. In the email with your bill each month, you will receive a secure link to click on. You may follow the instructions there and pay your bill. Trust deposits may not be made online. Trust deposits should be made over the phone with your credit card, or by check. If you do not receive your bill via email, you made call and make that request.
What is a trust account?
A trust account in the legal field is an account which holds money that is paid by the client to be applied to services rendered by the attorney. The attorney works for the client, under the assumption that the trust account is holding available funds to pay the attorney’s fees. At Lustgarten & Roberts, we bill on a monthly basis. At the end of the month, funds are transferred out of the trust account to pay the exact amount due on the client’s bill for that month. Then, the process starts again for the next month. When the trust account is becoming depleted, our office will likely request more money to be deposited in the trust account, to ensure the availability and expertise of the attorney for future work.
What happens if my case ends while I still have money in my trust account?
Any unearned money left in your trust account when your attorney has completed the required work on your case will be returned to you in the form of a check from our Firm.
What is your payment policy?
Our firm requires that all clients keep a positive balance in our trust account which goes toward paying the balance of the bill each month. The attorneys will direct the need for additional trust funds, along with the office manager. Non-payment and untimely payments result in attorney withdrawal from the case.
We understand that requiring the services of a family law attorney often puts finances into question, however, we do expect timely payment for our services.
We accept cash, check and credit card (VISA, Mastercard, American Express, and Discover.) We also accept money orders and cashier’s checks.
Working with Lustgarten & Roberts Attorneys
What happens if I want to hire one of your attorneys?
You should plan to meet with the attorney of your choosing, initially, to decide if the attorney is a good fit for you and your case. Most often, during this initial consultation, you will decide whether or not to hire that attorney. If you choose to do so, your attorney will give you instructions on how to proceed. Work on your case will commence when you have “retained” your attorney and signed the agreement he/she has provided to you. Retaining an attorney is done by putting a specified amount of money (called a retainer or trust deposit) into the law Firm’s Trust Account in your name. Usually the retainer amount for a divorce starts at $2500. Your attorney will tell you how much will be required as a retainer amount.
Do any of the attorneys meet clients on weekends?
Our attorneys work hard to complete all the required work during the regular M-F work week. They generally do not meet or talk to clients on weekends, but they will in special situations.
What do I do if I have a question?
We will do our very best to keep you informed as your case progresses. If you have questions or concerns, you are always welcome to call or email our office. Very often, a legal assistant can answer at least part of your question. While our support staff are not lawyers, each one of them is very experienced and can be very helpful. If they cannot answer your question, they will direct you to one of the attorneys.
The Trial Process
How long does it take to get a divorce?
A divorce must be on file for 60 days before it can be finalized. However, that is most often the least important consideration in the timing of a divorce. Cases which involve minor children and custody as well as complex financial marital estate cases are generally the most time consuming. The process of “discovery”, which is the process each party goes through to find out and research all the important pieces to the case can be time-consuming as well. Requesting records from various employers, banks, doctors, financial departments and other parties involved can require substantial time as well. How long a divorce case takes is very dependent on whether an agreement can be reached or if the case has to go to trial. The general time frame for a divorce case is anywhere between two months to one year or more, depending on the circumstances.
What is a “marital estate” and how does it impact a divorce case?
A “marital estate”, generally is the assets and debts accumulated during the marriage. The law states that in a long term marriage, marital assets and debts will be divided equally. In a shorter term marriage, the law states assets and debts can be divided anywhere between 1/3 – 2/3 and 50/50. There are exceptions to what is included in a marital estate, which your attorney will advise you about, such as premarital assets, the growth in value of premarital assets, etc.
How are the debts and assets divided in my divorce?
Nebraska courts account for debts and obligations of the parties in its division of property. In Nebraska, debts owed by either Husband and Wife, or both, are first categorized as “marital” or “non-marital” debts. A marital debt is defined as “one incurred during marriage and before date of separation by either spouse or both spouses for joint benefit of parties.” Marital property and debts are collectively called the “marital estate.” The court is obligated to divide the marital estate “equitably” between the parties, which means that the court will try to divide the assets and debts fairly and reasonably under the facts and circumstances of each case.
Generally, Non-marital debts are not included in the marital estate. Some examples of non-marital debts are debts incurred by either party before the marriage or after separation. The burden to prove that a debt is non-marital is on the party making that claim. Non-marital debts are usually paid by the party deemed to owe the non-marital debt.
Will I have a trial in my case?
In most cases, with the help of counsel, parties are able to reach a complete agreement on all issues in the case. To reach an agreement there must be cooperation from the other side. Our attorneys will do all that is possible to help you reach a fair resolution in your case, but if necessary, our attorneys will also prepare you for trial, if an agreement cannot be reached.
Can a family law Court Order be changed?
Yes. If a party can prove a “material change in circumstances” has occurred, a party can seek to modify issues such as custody, parenting time, parenting-related matters, child support and alimony. (The division of the marital estate cannot be modified, except in special circumstances.)
Issues Relating To Children
Can you tell me what to expect in the way of child support?
Child support under Nebraska law is set based on the Nebraska Child Support Guidelines approved by the Nebraska Supreme Court. The incomes of the parents, health insurance costs, taxes, and retirement contributions are included in a calculation that results in a child support amount.
Child support can be changed if the financial circumstances of the parents change.
When child support is ordered by the Court, there are legal steps that we can help you take to make sure payments are made.
What about my child’s health care costs? Who will pay for baseball or dance lessons? Braces?
These are all serious questions that parents have as they enter into this time of uncertainty. Trying to figure out what your life and your children’s lives will be like after the divorce is challenging and can be scary. These questions and the many others you have about life during the process and after should be addressed with your attorney. Your attorney needs to know what, if any, special considerations your children have. Those particular expenses can often be worked into a final decree. And this can give relief to both parents.
Do you work outside of Nebraska?
All of our attorneys are licensed only to practice law in Nebraska. We do occasionally take cases in counties outside the Omaha area, as long as they are in Nebraska. Travel time is a consideration in accepting these cases.
Will there be any other attorneys working on my case?
There are occasions when an attorney may be scheduled by the Courts for two hearings at the same time. In these cases, if rescheduling is not possible, a different attorney from our office may cover one of those hearings. This is not uncommon in this field. You may rest assured that the covering attorney will be prepared on your behalf for your hearing. If your case goes all the way to trial, you can expect your lead attorney will be the one handling your case in that trial.
Occasionally, other attorneys may do legal research for the lead attorney on a case. Also, sometimes legal documents are written by other attorneys in our office in order to work most efficiently for the clients.
Can both parties use the same attorney?
No. An attorney can only represent and advise one party. However, in a situation where the parties are in agreement on all issues, one attorney can prepare the necessary paperwork to complete the proceeding. If this occurs the attorney is still ethically bound to give advice only to the party who hired the attorney.
Can my friend, who practices a different kind of law, represent me in my divorce?
There are certainly attorneys who would take your case but do not primarily practice Family Law. However, you should enter into that relationship with caution. Family law has become quite complex over the years and with all that is at stake in your case, (financial stability and children’s lives) you should consider a firm which specializes in Family Law. Lustgarten & Roberts attorneys have a combined 80+ years working in the field of Family Law. Our attorneys have even created the law in cases where it was necessary for our clients. Lustgarten and Roberts P.C. L.L.O. has been a Family Law firm in Omaha for 40 years. The skills and experience which are necessary to see a case through in the best possible way are only seen in those attorneys who practice almost exclusively in that field and have been doing it for years.
Why do some of my friend’s cases have one outcome, while others have completely different ones?
Of course, each case has different sets of facts, but also playing big roles in these outcomes are the talents and abilities of the attorneys involved. There can be no downplaying the role that the attorney plays in the outcome of your case. Another determining factor is the knowledge that our firm’s attorneys have of the courts, the system, the personnel and judges who operate within that system. Judges have different approaches to cases and interpretations of the law. Lustgarten & Roberts attorneys are well-known and well-respected in the Nebraska courts. Our attorneys are very familiar with the best ways to approach our position on each case with each judge. This is crucial to our clients and the outcomes.
Do I have any rights as a grandparent?
As with most states, grandparent visitation is only in existence because the legislature has drafted statutes for the Court to follow. In general, if you have had a significant, beneficial relationship with a grandchild and you are being denied time with that grandchild, you may be able to bring an action for grandparent visitation under Nebraska law. After a short consultation with one of our attorneys, we will be able to tell you whether or not we believe your facts are sufficient to be successful if you bring such an action.